Most of us grow up with pretty finely tuned bullshit detectors. The thing is, this technology is getting better every day.
In fact, over the years, I think bullshit-detection technology has more than kept pace with computer technology, to the degree that kids today have BS detectors picking up readings as low as one-part-bullshit-in-a-million.
Interestingly, many of these same kids – these wonderful cynical rebels – will, when asked to create advertising, revert quickly to bullshit. They aren’t stupid. They’ve simply grown up listening to all the horrible advertising out there and, hey, when you grow up in France, you speak French.
This is why I ask beginning students to forget every single thing they think they know about advertising and keep only their disdain for most of it. I ask them to be honest and to just talk. Yes, I want them be interesting, to be funny, or dramatic, but to just talk; not bullshit.
As a test, I give students this process, one they can apply to their own work to see if it qualifies as bullshit.
Pretend you’re sitting next to some guy at a bar and you’re talking about the product you’re advertising which, today, let’s say it’s some chain restaurant. And this guy asks you, “So, tell me again why I should go to this place?” You take a big slug of beer, look ‘im in the eye, and you say….
“The flavors of ancient Italy will tantalize your nose and suddenly you’re in Rome.”
This is where he slugs you. > POW! <
You’re on the floor lookin’ up wondering what just happened. Well, what happened is you decided your bar buddy was an idiot and he’d believe any insipid, bullshit cliché you come up with.
So, that’s my little test.
Look your best friend in the eye and speak your message. Can you say it with the same authenticity and unadorned honesty as you would tellin’ her what the weather is?
If you can, you’re not advertising. You’re just tellin’ someone about this cool thing you heard about. And what’s wrong with that?